Goodbye, Charlie 2006-2020

This is from an email we sent to friends on Oct. 16, 2020. Click on photos for larger image.

We have some sad news: we had to put our Charlie down today.

A younger Charlie, prowling through his front garden

We knew he had some kidney issues (he went through some blood tests just before we moved last month), but they became suddenly acute yesterday. The vet wasn’t sure why: perhaps a blockage, but the tests showed far higher levels today than a month ago, and one kidney was massive, the other so tiny, the vet wondered if it had ever functioned. The prognosis didn’t look good, and at the least he’d have to go to a different hospital somewhere (they’d have to find one first) for investigation and surgery. Clearly, his prospects didn’t look good, so we think we made the only decision we could.

We did have some time with him in the end. When I leaned against him, with my arms around him, he calmed right down. We stayed like that for a while, and then called in the vet. We finally told the vet to go ahead. Charlie & I stayed like that till the end.

Charlie came to us in 2008, when he was about 2, and long after we had said “no more cats.” We had put down too many cats, and decided we were ready for a cat-free life at some point. But unlike other strays who had only wanted food, Charlie wanted a home. I said, repeatedly “No, we’d agreed before”. We figured we’d find someone to take him. One person did, but returned him a few days later (already had a cat). Two friends wanted to take him, but couldn’t because of where they were living at the time. So, he moved into 98 Mayfield, joining Lucy and Ethel. 

This was our most common position

Who would have guessed what we got ourselves into? What a great cat he was! Somehow he attached himself to me, and we became inseparable pals. From the morning, when I had my coffee and read the newspaper with Charlie on my chest, to summer evenings when the two of us hung out on the front porch, until bed time when I read a book, again with him on my chest. In between, he loved afternoon naps with Oksana, and depended on her for snacks.

He was also was great pals with Ethel who left us 4 years ago. (Our notice about Ethel’s passing here.) They loved their boxing matches. (Videos

He loved the outdoors so much that we were worried how he would adapt to our move. We took him here one day pre-move, and he was very upset, but once we moved in, he adapted really well to apartment living. A little puzzled at times, but he was pretty relaxed. He was curious looking at the downtown world from on high, and enjoyed me carrying him onto the balcony.

I have a lot of photos of him, but one of my favourites is one of the last I took. He and I are sitting in the same chair we sat together in at the house. He’s stretched out on my lap in the glow of the sunset. That’s how I remember him now. We are having the photo framed; it will be mounted beside “our” chair.


We have had 9 cats since we’ve been married, but for me Charlie was #1.


(And no, we will NOT be having any more cats.)




Goodbye Ethel, 1999-2016

(It took this event to prompt the first post to this neglected blog in almost 2 years…)

Click photos for larger images.

EthelThis afternoon, we said goodbye to Ethel, who’s been with us since she came here as a kitten in October, 1999.

But age has been hard on her for the past several months. Her arthritis has been painful, although helped by codeine treatments we’ve been giving her. To ease her joints, she began spending more time lying on the heated bathroom floor. Since we cranked the heat up for her, she rarely left that floor, except to cry once or twice a night for us to lift her onto our bed.

She has been eating less and less, and so today, we brought in Dr Faith Banks, a vet who makes house calls, and who came here about 4 years ago for Ethel’s “sister”, Lucy. We were glad Ethel could have a quiet, peaceful final time in her home.

Lucy & Ethel (kittens)

Lucy & Ethel (kittens)

Ethel was a mischievous soul. When she & Lucy came here at about the same time, they were utterly inseparable, at least for a few months. Then Ethel’s inner pest developed, alongside Lucy’s innate victimhood. It wasn’t a good combination for Lucy.

When Charlie came into the house about 8 years ago, Ethel made it clear to him that she was the boss of the house, using well-timed bops to his head, or swats to his bum. (Charlie didn’t mind). A couple of their boxing matches are on 2 brief videos at the bottom of this page.

Ethel was a great mouser in her younger days. Our elderly neighbour, no fan of mice, would often say “God Bless Ethel”. Other neighbours have fond (or not) memories of falling asleep to, or being kept up by, the sound of the two of us walking up the street, very late at night calling “Ethel… Ethel…”. She would come home from her nocturnal rambles when she was ready.

Those days were in the past for her — for some time now, her night time has been spent watching TV beside Oksana — but we’ll always remember how much she once loved the night, and how, in her much younger days, she could leap 3 feet in the air, when she was playing with some of her toys.

She’s in our back garden now, together with Jade, who died, very young about a month before Ethel was born.

Click photos for larger images.

Ethel & Charlie
… this was how they played. (You can click the full screen icon in bottom right).

“Keep a Knockin’…”


Fighting winter boredom.
This box has occupied our living room for the past several winters. No need for it this winter.

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What’s an Internet without cat videos?

Why not some cat videos?  These three all feature Charlie and Ethel in one of their favourite play activities: boxing.

1. Combating boredom (Fox version)

In the spring of 2010, a family of foxes moved into our backyard neighbourhood. Squirrels and baby raccoons were slaughtered regularly, and each of our cats was chased down at least once.

So for a couple of months, they were mostly kept indoors (or on a leash). After a long winter, they weren’t happy. But Charlie at least would amuse himself with a good game of billiards (and a bit of boxing with Ethel):

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2. Combatting boredom (winter version)

Every winter since we got our TV, the big box comes up to the living room, and becomes play central. Usually in this fashion…

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3. Back door battle

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A Christmas time to remember

Posted Christmas Day (with a Boxing Day update)

Click thumbnails for larger images

The great Toronto ice storm of 2013 left us in the dark (and cold) for about 43 hours, from 9 am Sunday (Dec. 22) until about 4 am on Christmas Eve.  At the peak, there were 300,000 homes in Toronto without electricity or heat, just as some terribly cold weather approached. We had already gone through a 46-hour blackout in July following that month’s “Great Flood” Toronto had experienced. One lesson we learned from that time was to not keep a lot of food in the freezer! We threw out a lot of spoiled food last summer; a lot less this time around.

If our dark and cold house wasn’t enough of a connection with the problems Toronto was experiencing, we had a fallen hydro lying on the road right in front of our house. Falling tree branches pulled it down on Sunday, severing the house across the road from us from the main electrical feed. (Which of course was dead at the time). A police car sat on our street most of the day blocking the street in case anyone touched the completely dead electric wire. The car left, but the street was blocked off with police tape.


Below: Police guard a dead (for now) hydro wire. We had emergency supplies stockpiled

A hydro wire came down Sunday. Emergency Rations


We watched (and our cats, Ethel and Charlie experienced) the dropping of temperature in the house hour by hour. Sunday night, many on our block gathered in a house across the road to enjoy a fireplace, candles and wine. By Monday, some were moving out, to stay with friends and family who had heat and power. We decided to hold off one more day; moving would be traumatic for the cats, and we thought we could survive one more night. Monday night, we went around the corner to a neighbourhood restaurant, Classico, for dinner. The owner also filled up our hot watter bottle. Back home, Charlie and I sat by the fire, while Ethel crawled under the covers and against the hot water bottle. (She stayed near it all night, as we all huddled together in the bed, with plenty of covers).

xmas-freeze_ch-fire-w xmas-freeze_w-bottle-w


I woke up about 4:30am. I knew what time it was because the electric clock told me. Santa had come a day early! I went to the basement to make sure the furnace and hot water heater had come on (they had). I checked the thermostat: 8C — but climbing! How happy all of us were. Soon, the cats settled in in one of their favourite places in winter — on top of the living room radiator. They didn’t move for a long time…


Now, on Christams Day, there are still tens of thousands of homes without power or heat, as crews work around the clock to clear trees, fix wires and restore hydro. We certainly appreciate — once again — having a warm and bright home, especially for Christmas.

Today, a hydro worker showed up to disable the downed hydro line on the street. The house it had come from was the only one on our block which didn’t get power back on Tuesday. Our neighbours moved out that day to stay somewhere with heat. We understand they should get power back sometime tonight.

Below: a couple of other photos from our power-less days.
– Our 1940’s-era Northern Electric phone came through for the second time during a blackout
– Our Ukrainian and Canadian flags in the ice storm.

Once again, our 1940's Northern Electric phone came through during a blackout. Our Ukrainian and Canadian flags in the ice and snow


Boxing Day update…

The original worker yesterday didn’t remove the downed wire. This morning I discovered he’d just looped it up, and stored it safely (!) on our property, covered in much yellow police tape.

Live wire tied up on our yard.

About 11:30 this morning, a crew showed up. They re-attached the wire and restored power to our neighbour’s house.

Onward into winter…